CREEDMOOR – It has often been said that sports mirrors life in so many ways. You get the minor ups and downs, the kinds of things that make you happy one day and sad the next. You get that extra feeling of elation when you win the biggest of big games and the sadness and – yes, tears – that comes from those heart-breaking losses.
Saturday evening the girls on the Topsail High School volleyball team had one of those huge moments when they staged an amazing come-from-behind win over East Duplin in the NCHSAA 2A state volleyball playoffs, but Tuesday evening the ball bounced the other way and an amazing season put together by a group of amazing young ladies came to a sudden end.
What will be remembered for a considerable period of time is that final game, that final loss. What hopefully will be remembered for a long, long time in the hearts and minds of these Lady Pirates and their fans is a season that exceeded the expectations of many and, for five very special group of departing seniors, a career that was filled with – as the folks at ABC’s Wide World of Sports used to proclaim, “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”
Senior Carlie Smith had 17 kills, nine service points, four blocks, and 11 digs, and teammate and classmate Angie Poage ended her illustrious four-year varsity career with 16 points, 21 assists, a kill, and 14 digs but it was not enough to stave off a power-hitting group of Lady Vikings as South Granville defeated Topsail 3-0 (12-25, 15-25, 16-25) on Thursday in the Eastern Regional final of the NCHSAA 2A state volleyball playoffs in Creedmoor.
South Granville (23-5) now moves on to face North Surry (32-2) on Saturday in the 2A state championship game at North Carolina State’s Reynolds Coliseum.
The Lady Pirates see a season come to an end in which they won their third-straight East Central 2A Conference title, complete a third-consecutive unbeaten conference season, won 44-straight conference games (Maybe it should he 48 since they beat conference foes Clinton, South Lenoir, Croatan, and East Duplin in the playoff run) over three-plus years, and advance to the East Regional final of the state playoffs.
Even in defeat it must be remembered that these girls were one of only four teams out of approximately 92 schools in the 2A classification playing on Tuesday – and that is a major accomplishment.
“They had too many hitters and we were limited to getting production from our two middles (Smith and sophomore Kayla Hyatt), and that’s the most serves we missed in any playoff game,” Topsail Coach Hill Pearsall said. “They’re (South Granville) good. They have two girls that can put the ball down, and they simply had more power than we did.”
That showed early in the first game when they used an 11-1 run to break open a 4-4 tie game behind four kills, a block, and an ace. Lady Vikings’ senior Mary Catherine Preddy, who is headed to North Carolina State on a full volleyball scholarship, led the way in the opener with six kills, two blocks, and three aces.
The Lady Pirates really never recovered from that onslaught, and they were never able to get any sustained runs going. For the most part, the rest of the game, the two teams exchanged points but the damage was already done.
There were no ties in the second game as the Lady Vikings jumped out to a quick lead and never really looked back. It was 7-2 after the first two service exchanges and, again, it was an exchange of points pretty much the rest of the way.
The Lady Pirates did finally get their first three-point surge but the score was already titled to the South Granville side of the scoreboard at 21-14 after the run.
One thing about the Lady Pirates they do not go down without a fight, and they fought hard in the third game. Along with Smith and Poage, Hyatt, Reagan Holloway, Lacey Akerley, Sarah Woodward, and Chandler Skipper kept battling.
The game was tied at 2-2, 4-4, 5-5, and 6-6 before a four-point surge gave the Lady Vikings some breathing room at 9-6. But while the Lady Pirates continued to struggle in putting runs together, the Lady Vikings would get two or three to Topsail’s one until the advantage increased to 18-12 in South Granville’s favor.
The Lady Pirates gave their fans a flash of hope with a three-point spurt but South Granville answered with a four-pointer, and they closed out the game, the match, and Topsail’s season from there.
“We came out a little scared I think and our defense was off,” said Poage through tears. “We weren’t setting up the blocks right and they had some really good hitters. It just wasn’t our night.”
Topsail will lose Smith, Poage, Akerley, Darnell, and Kaleigh Bordeaux to graduation, and they certainly will all be missed. Pearsall declared Poage and Smith, “The best setter/hitter combination I have ever coached,” and each of those other seniors took their turns contributing big points and stellar leadership to a successful year.
Smith is being recruited by several schools, among them Catawba, Campbell, and UNC-Wilmington, and Darnell and Bordeaux are headed to some college on softball scholarships. Poage will more than likely wind up playing somewhere but on this night she was concerned her volleyball days might be behind her.
“This has been better that I ever expected, especially this year, and we have become so much of a family it’s sad to think it’s time to go our separate ways. I hope to continue playing in college but there is nothing positive yet, and it’s hard to think it might be all over.”
Topsail moves to the Mid-Eastern 3A/4A Conference next year, and the cupboard is not bare. Skipper, Woodward, Holloway, setter Jenna Register, and defensive specialist Sammi Proulx are all juniors – as is hitter Ali Broadbridge – and Hyatt is as sophomore, and Annie Jonson will joint them from the junior-varsity squad.
“We talked before the game that, win or lose, it’s been a season to be proud of,” Pearsall said. “Now we’ll take a little time off and take the summer to see what the returning girls do, and go from there.”
S. Granville 25-25-25
Topsail: Carlie Smith 9 points, 17 kills, 4 blocks, 11 digs; Angie Poage 16 points, 25 assists, 1 kill, 14 digs; Kayla Hyatt 9 points, 11 kills, 2 blocks, 11 digs; Reagan Holloway 2 kills, 7 digs; Chandler Skipper 15 digs; Sammi Proulx 5 digs; Summer Darnell 3 kills, 1 block 1 dig; Sarah Woodward 3 points, 5 assists, 1 kill, 1 block, 5 digs; Lacey Akerley 2 points, 1 kill, 3 digs.
S. Granville: Mary Catherine Preddy 17 kills, 3 blocks, 3 aces; Logan Bradshaw 7 kills, 1 ace; Jenna Davis 5 kills, 1 block; T’Keyah Davis 4 kills, 3 aces; Casey Ellington 4 kills, 1 ace, 1 block; Summer Williamson 3 kills, 1 ace; Cayce B ell 1 ace.